Peter Hall (urbanist)

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Peter Hall (urbanist) : biography

19 March 1932 –

Sir Peter Geoffrey Hall, FBA (born 19 March 1932) is an English town planner, urbanist and geographer. He is the Bartlett Professor of Planning and Regeneration at The Bartlett, University College London and President of both the Town and Country Planning Association and the Regional Studies Association.

He is internationally renowned for his studies and writings on the economic, demographic, cultural and management issues that face cities around the globe. Hall has been for many years a planning and regeneration adviser to successive UK governments. He was Special Adviser on Strategic Planning to the British government (1991–94) and a member of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister’s Urban Task Force (1998–1999). Hall is considered by many to be the father of the industrial enterprise zone concept, adopted by countries worldwide to develop industry in disadvantaged areas.

Honours and awards

Hall received in 2001 the Vautrin Lud International Geography Prize and later in 2003 won the Royal Town Planning Institute Gold Medal along with the Founder’s Medal of the Royal Geographical Society for distinction in research. In 2005, he won the Balzan Prize for the Social and Cultural History of Cities since the Beginning of the 16th Century. He won the award "for his unique contribution to the history of ideas about urban planning, his acute analysis of the physical, social and economic problems of modern cities and his powerful historical investigations into the cultural creativity of city life." In 2008 Hall was awarded the Regional Studies Prize for Overall Contribution to the Field of Regional Studies.

Hall is a Fellow of the British Academy and a member of the Academia Europea as well as the Austrian Academy of Sciences. He holds fourteen honorary doctorates from universities in the UK, Sweden and Canada. Hall was knighted in 1998 for services to the Town and Country Planning Association. He has been on the Board of Trustees of The Architecture Foundation.


Early years

Hall was born in London, England and went on to graduate from St Catharine’s, Cambridge with a Master’s degree and Doctorate before starting his academic career in 1957 as lecturer at Birkbeck College, University of London. He later became a reader in geography at the London School of Economics. Hall was a founding editor of the academic journal Regional Studies which has become a leading international journal in its area.


In 1968, Hall was appointed Professor of Geography and Head of Department at the University of Reading. He remained Geography Head of Department until 1980 but in the meantime became Chairman of the Planning School from 1971 for a total of 9 years until 1986 as well as Dean of Urban and Regional Planning for 3 years. Running parallel through the 1980s, he was also Professor in the Department of City and Regional Planning at the University of California, Berkeley. He left Reading in 1989 and Berkeley in 1992 to take up the Chair of Planning at The Bartlett, University College, London, where he remains today.

Hall has studied to the world’s cities from multiple angles – economic, demographic, cultural and managerial. He has written and edited nearly 40 books, some of them translated into several other languages. His first prominent book was The World Cities published simultaneously in 6 languages in 1966. A Chinese edition came out in 1982, a year before the English third edition. The research encompassed was ahead of its time; it is only since the mid-1980s that world cities became a major school of urban research.

Of his writings devoted to contemporary problems of urban planning in Britain, Europe and the USA, one of the best known is The Containment of Urban England (1973), an analysis of the British town and country planning system, based on a formidable amount of statistical research. It focuses on the processes of urban growth in England and Wales since World War II and describes how the planning movement tried to contain and guide it.